We all know the feeling of heading home from an exhausting day of work or school with only one thing on your mind: dinner. But what happens when all you have in the fridge is a gallon of milk and some produce you may have bought last week? The actions we take from here might sound familiar, maybe we go through a drive-thru, call a delivery service, or even sleep through it. While all of those scenarios might taste good (besides sleeping), most of the time they don’t have your health or budget in mind. The easiest way to get out of this weekly rut is by creating a meal plan and prep schedule that is flexible to you. Planning and preparing meals ahead of a busy week ensures you are staying healthy, full, and relaxed after a long day at the office. Here are some tips to help you make your weeknights a little easier:
Tip #1: Pick Your Recipes
Make a list of healthy recipes your family loves. Whether it is something as simple as baked chicken with vegetables or your mother in law’s famous casserole, making a master list of recipes you know your family will love takes out the “what” of meal prepping. Keep all the recipes in a folder or in an electronic file to make sure this list is easily accessible and there are always alternative recipes available if plans change.
Tip #2: Buying Ingredients
Buy all ingredients for the week at once. This eliminates having to run back and forth to the grocery store all week long. Additionally, read the sales ad before going and find the recipe ingredients that are on sale to have healthy, affordable! And to take it a step further, if you know certain items like canned tomatoes or chicken breasts are used frequently in your recipes, stock up when they go on sale.
Tip #3: Pick a Day to Cook
Pick one day to prepare a few pieces from your meals. For example, if you know you’re using lentils in a soup, side dish, and salad topper, precook them to decrease cooking time throughout the week. This can be done for the smallest of items, like deveining kale, to baking off your proteins for the week.
Tip #4: Build Better Meals
Recipes can be hard to find, but here are some great methods to create your own healthy recipe.
- Start with the flavors. Choosing the flavor profile can help you build a better plate. Whether it is stir fry, or Italian night, utilizing these different flavors not only helps you easily build recipes, but helps change up what you’re eating throughout the week.
- Next, start with the base of the meal. This could be anything from a salad, a bed of vegetables, or a starch such as sweet potatoes. Picking the main base can then help you get creative.
- After picking your base, pick a protein (ie: chicken, shrimp, eggs, or beans)
- Last, add in healthy fillers. This can be extra vegetables, fresh herbs, or some low fat cheese.
- Last, tie it back to the beginning of flavor! What are some things that can help tie your dish together? Maybe the zest and juice of a lemon, tomato sauce, BBQ, avocado, the list goes on. These toppings elevate the food we enjoy and can add in more nutrient dense choices.
Meal planning and prepping is a great way to ensure you are eating healthy while eliminating the exhausting after work dinner prep. Use these tips to get the ball rolling on meal prep and check out the blog for amazing recipes your family will love.